Yo Momma Monday: Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Meet Gretchen Fleener, 34, from Mound, Minnesota. She is an Industrial Designer, Web Designer and face painter. She runs her own business, Junk Mail Gems, where she sells fun items that she makes out of junk mail. She is also an awesome momma to her two sons, who are three and five. Gretchen took time out of her busy schedule to talk to me about how she manages everything, and what she wants her sons to learn from her business.

Gretchen got into junk mail art when she was making magnets from junk mail to preserve patterns that she liked in a functional way. She heard over and over again that she could sell her magnets, but it wasn’t until her sister urged her to start selling online. And that is where Junk Mail Gems was born, six years ago.

“She and I came up with the Junk Mail Gems name because the magnets looked like little gems.  I had a lot of fun designing the logo, then website, and coming up with more things to make out of junk mail to fill my store!”

Although  it may not be for everyone, Gretchen says that being the boss is the best part of running her own business. She loves that she can work when it fits in her life, rather than having to wait for work to be over to enjoy life. A life-long multitasker, she can be found packing items during a commercial break.

As for most small business owners, finances are a worry of hers. Fortunately, she has an incredibly supportive husband whose stable job covers the important bills, allowing her to work from home. He fits her business schedule into his and will come home early to watch the boys if she needs to go to a face painting job or a client meeting.

“He never talks down about my businesses or makes me feel less important because I don’t work 9-5 in an office anymore.”

Before she had her sons, doing anything creative or artistic gave her the most fulfillment. Now, she gets the most fulfillment from using her artistic skills (and revenue earned through them) on her boys.

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

“My kids blow my mind with the things they create already at age 3 and 5 and it’s so cool to see that part of me in them.”

As you might imagine, her boys love crafting with her, and her five-year-old has even caught the bug for turning junk into something he can use and play with! To help cultivate her boys’ creativity, Gretchen labeled a Rubbermaid bin “the project box” and throws odds and ends that the boys can use for their crafts. She also keeps all the kid-friendly crafting supplies at their level so they can create on their own.

“I love coming up with projects to do with them, but my favorite thing is to let them loose and see what they come up with on their own. One of my 5 year old’s most used Christmas gifts is his collection of brightly colored masking tape rolls that my sister gave him.  He is constantly rescuing things form our recycle bin and turning them into things…rocket ships, monster trucks, and houses for his stuffed dogs!”

Not only do her boys love crafting with her, they also love going to yard sales and thrift stores, too! Gretchen says that she talks to them about not wasting things or money, which has also taught them to be patient when they find brand new toys in a store, as they will probably end up at a yard sale or thrift store in a matter of time.

Much like her children, Gretchen loved going to yard sales as a kid and quickly became a big collector. Her collection is now limited to what she can use to decorate her house, and what her family can actually use. I feel your pain, girl. Her vintage finds came in handy last year when she redesigned her kitchen and decorated it with her scores from the 50’s. After facing the normal collector problem of acquiring more than she could use, she set up an Etsy shop.

“This gives me the thrill of the hunt, without the worry of collecting too much.  I love to imagine people looking through my site and getting as excited about finding the perfect thing for their kitchen as I do for mine!”

Gretchen says that she finds inspiration from everywhere – like an oil slick on the street or an old brick building. She also finds inspiration from surrounding herself by other creative people.

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

“I take TONS of photos and am always collecting inspiration for art, graphic, design or craft projects!”

As an Industrial Designer, Gretchen likes to stay current and is always looking into current and future trends. However, when it comes to her personal style, her love for the ’50s does not stop at kitchen utensils. She also leads a life that is deemed old-fashioned by many people today.

“..Staying home with my kids, canning stuff from my garden, baking cookies, making things by hand and cooking a family dinner each night!”

While Gretchen has always considered herself a motivated person, she says that she is now motivated by different things – like getting her work done early so she can spend more time with her family.

“I know that if I get overtired or overworked, I won’t be as good of a parent or spouse, and my family come first.  So in a way, getting in a little “me” time or letting the laundry sit there one more day  can be better for the family and everyone’s mood!  “

Gretchen credits her ability to get everything done to multitasking and creating lists, just like she used to make fun of her mom for doing years ago. Along with that, she stays super organized, and will rework how shes does something if she feels she’s not doing it efficiently enough – often finding a tool or an app that will help.

“But the one thing I don’t compromise on is sleep.  I just can’t function well on any less than 8 hours a night, and when I get enough sleep, being super productive comes much easier during the day!”

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Although Gretchen says that she doesn’t really feel like her work is “work,” she does like to get outside and go fishing, biking and gardening. Living on a lake doesn’t hurt, either. She also likes to paint and work on something creative that is related to her businesses. One craft that she would like to practice more is knitting.

“I’ve done a little, but I love to crochet and really like how much faster it goes!  I’d love to learn how to make my own soaps or candles.  And I’d really love to learn Henna.  It seems right up my alley and would be a great addition to my face painting offerings!”

Gretchen also runs as a series of “Momtreprenuer” Interviews on her blog, as she says that she is always encouraged by hearing how other moms run their businesses and homes.

“So, I thought others might enjoy them too!  It’s also one small way that I can help support fellow moms by spreading the word about their businesses.”

She hopes that her Junk Mail Gems business gives people a new way to look at “junk.” She shares tutorials on her site for various recycling projects, so that people can get new ideas for their own projects.

“I hope to inspire them to find a way to do what they love and maybe even make a little money doing it!  I am always so happy to hear from people who were inspired to try a project I’ve shared too.”

Since Gretchen’s sons will be in school full-time pretty soon, she plans on adding more jobs to her line of work (as if she doesn’t have enough already) like freelance retail fixture design and body painting. She also wants to expand the merchandise section of her online face painting store and seek out more retailers for Junk Mail Gems.

“Right now I have no desire to go back to the corporate gig, but have a huge list of things I’d like to do to grow all of my businesses”

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

If you are feeling inspired by Gretchen like I am, you can connect with her through Junk Mail Gems and ID Mommy and can also find her on Facebook and Pinterest. If you know someone who would be a good fit for Yo Momma Monday (your beautiful self included), post in the comments and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Find more Yo Momma Monday inspiration on my Pinterest!

Thrifty Thursdays

thrifty thursdays

I love books. Big, old books that have that  old book smell to them. Any time I’m at a flea market, swap meet, thrift store or yard sale, I always go for the books. Not just any ol paperback, but the old books, with the hard covers. I always image a million things I can do with them, but they usually end up on the bookshelf, rarely touched. In fact, the only hard cover books I read are generally cookbooks. I was cruising Pinterest the other day, and found some pretty neat crafts you can do to reuse books, and I thought I would share!

The first three I found through Saved by Love Creations. She shared over 50 different tutorials, and I picked a few of my favorite. Her site is also a really good resource if you want to find creative ways to reuse discarded items.

Photo belongs to The Gilded Bee

Photo belongs to The Gilded Bee

Vintage book cover postcards from The Gilded Bee – Sasha used old book covers to create postcards and shared her process on her blog. As a crafter and collector, she also has an Etsy shop where she sells floral arrangements made out of paper. How neat!

Image belongs to Hello, ReFabulous

Image belongs to Hello, ReFabulous

Make your own paperback wallet from Hello, ReFabulous – I got this tutorial from another awesome site, Craftster. Since Craftster is a wonderful crafting community, it’s always good to click on the contributor’s website link. More likely than not, that person will share other awesome tutorials, and it’s good to see the crafter behind the craft! Don’t you think? I digress. Connie shares a step-by-step tutorial on her blog, complete with photos of her process. As a mother of nine, I have no idea how she has time to craft since I can barely find time with one baby, but I’m grateful that she does!

Image belongs to Ruffles and Stuff

Image belongs to Ruffles and Stuff

Book Art from Ruffles and Stuff – Disney (the creator of the blog and tutorial, not the cartoon giant) got her inspiration for this project from an Etsy store, Collage-O-Rama, and decided to make her own book art. We all see items we love on Etsy, but when you are strapped for cash, sometimes you just need to make your own. Collage-O-Rama is definitely worth checking out. So much rad stuff on there! Ruffles and Stuff is also good to check out, even if you don’t want to make book art. She has so many tutorials, they have categories: Ladies, Kids and Home.

Image belongs to Design*Sponge

Image belongs to Design*Sponge

Book Page Fabric from Design*Sponge – Everyone knows how much I love this site. This happens to be just one of the very, very many tutorials that Contributor Brenna from paper & ink shares with us. You can visit her page for more awesome tutorials, and if you are into paper crafting, some very beautiful eye candy.

Image belongs to Rook No. 17

Image belongs to Rook No. 17

Upcycled Book Journal from Rook. No. 17 – Jenn not only shares a step-by-step tutorial, including the amount of time it will take (which is good when time is always of the essence), but also the specific names of all the tools she uses. She spent about $5.50 per journal, which is awesome. This would be the perfect way to jot down all of my creative/crafty ideas and document my creative business journey. Wonderful!

I hope this inspires you to either make something from your vintage hard-cover books, or to go out and get some books and get to work! If you happen to find first-edition books, always make sure to check online for the worth. A collector may love you forever if you post the book online for them to purchase. And if you do go for cookbooks, make sure you don’t want the recipes, or jot them down to save somewhere!

Have a fun book craft idea you want to share? Post in the comments and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #bookcrafts. You can always get more thrifty inspiration on my Pinterest! Stay thrifty, my friends.